The Homeplug Powerline Alliance has announced an update to its specification for AV-centric home powerline networking kit, designed to improve speed without sacrificing range.
The Homeplug system is one of several technologies designed to use the electrical wiring that is already threaded throughout your home to as a carrier for network traffic. It's a neat idea, as it means you don't have to mess around drilling holes and punching CAT5e and the very fact that it's wired means you get better coverage and higher security when compared to 802.11 wireless technologies. While early models were limited to very slow speeds – on the order of 14Mb/s, in fact – the current Homeplug AV standard allows for a theoretical maximum of 200Mb/s.
It's not all plain sailing, however – so don't go ditching your Ethernet switches just yet. The main drawback of the system when compared to traditional wired networking is that all the Homeplug devices on a ring act as a hub rather than a switch – this means that the seemingly high 200Mb/s bandwidth is shared between all
devices connected to that mains ring.
If you're transferring from one device to another, you'll get full speed – but if a third device is doing something at the same time, the bandwidth is shared and your speed drops dramatically. The problem is inherent in the technology, and while it's unlikely to discourage home users – who are likely to only be using a small number of devices simultaneously – it does hinder adoption of the technology in corporate environments.
According to comments made by president of the Homeplug Alliance Rob Ranck on ExtremeTech
, the latest standard – to be called Homeplug AV II, in a startling
fit of originality – will be “significantly faster than Homeplug AV as it is today,” although Ranck wasn't being goaded into given hard figures. The specification is expected to be finalised by year end, with sampling of devices incorporating the technology being manufactured some time in 2009.
While greater maximum speeds will alleviate [i]some
of the issues with the technology, the use of a single collision domain will ensure that Homeplug is a consumer-level technology – which, as can be garnered from the name, is fine with the Homeplug Powerline Alliance.
Does anyone here use Ethernet-over-mains bridges, or are we all techy enough that every room in our houses has CAT6 running Gigabit Ethernet? Share your experiences over in the forums